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#10 Thyatira Part II

August 12, 2008

I open our study this morning with the word of God through His Apostle Paul who spoke of the emptiness of this world’s goods, praise, and glory. Those who cling to the world have built their houses on sand. They have no sure foundation and when the storms of life come, they will be swept away. Paul knew of these things. He had once counted on these things, placed his trust in what he said and did, and relied upon these things to see him through. But one day God opened his eyes to see the evil that dwelt in his heart. He was made to see that the things he had placed his trust in were nothing more than dust and ashes. They would no more support him before a holy God than a spider-web would support a falling rock! He was granted the privilege of seeing Jesus Christ. And in that heavenly vision he saw himself in the blazing light of the holiness of God. He saw for the first time that for all of his ‘good works’ for all of his Pharisaical law-keeping, for all of his sacrifices and his zealous persecution of the church (which he did in the name of God) he had not gotten himself points with the Almighty.

 

He was made to see that his deeds were nothing more than filthy rags: they were sin in the sight of God. Like the other Pharisees, he had claimed special insight into the word and will of God. He claimed to be able to see, and so his guilt remained. He discovered that God was of purer eyes than to behold such wickedness as his. For all of his zealousness Paul saw that he was lost and undone, a man of unclean lips who dwelt among a people of unclean lips! He had zeal but not according to knowledge. But God had mercy on this self righteous man. Paul had been given the grace to see Jesus and that vision humbled him into the dust. That day, Jesus called him out of darkness and into His marvelous light and Paul was saved: not by works of righteousness that he had done but according to God’s mercy. He was given the privilege of knowing God. His sins were washed away in the precious blood of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. He was made a new creature in Christ Jesus. For the first time in his life he saw the Truth and the Truth set him free: free from a works based religion that could never save him. And He was set free to serve the living God, not under compulsion as before, but from a new heart of flesh, a heart of love to the One who saved Him.

 

Remember what he said while lying there on the Damascus road? Lord, what do you want me to do! His whole purpose in life had changed in a twinkling of an eye! As for his past life Paul looked upon it with disgust. He saw the futility of those years and how useless he had been. He saw that he had been serving himself instead of God and he looked upon that time with loathing. Listen to the heart of a man who truly loves Jesus! (Philippians 3:7-14)  But whatever things were gain to me, (whatever those things were that I thought were so wonderful, which I supposed were gaining me favor with God) those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (the idea is of damaged goods, worthy only to be thrown away) 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, (Paul had forsaken his old way of life, a true example of what repentance looks like) and count (consider) them but rubbish (refuse, the excrement of animals, off-scourings, dregs, things worthless and detestable) so that I may gain Christ, 9

 

Think of the parable of the pearl of great price. The man in the parable sold all he had in order to get that one pearl. All those things that he had once counted precious paled before the surpassing beauty of this one pearl. This is the idea that Paul is illustrating here! Those things that he had once placed so much value upon were now worthless in his eyes, fit only for the dunghill in comparison to Jesus Christ. His sole desire was to know Jesus, to be with Jesus, to gain Jesus! Paul’s hearts desire is spelled out when he says “and that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Now consider the church of Thyatira. While indeed there were those who followed after Baal, Jezebel, Balaam, the Nicolatians and other heretical teachings, there was still a faithful remnant who were devoted to Jesus Christ: who loved the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They stayed true to the word of God and would not turn to the right hand or to the left. These faithful few were no doubt persecuted in some fashion but their love for Jesus was worth more than all the gold and silver in the world. Jesus Christ was worth more than their very lives!Their eyes were fixed on the Author and Finisher of their faith. It is these members whom Jesus complimented when He spoke of their deeds, their love, faith, service and perseverance. It was this faithful remnant whose deeds of faith were increasing. But there was compromise going on in this place in the form of toleration. There were those who had sold themselves to do evil. There were others who had been led astray though the cunning wiles of this evil “prophetess” Jezebel. They fell for the lie that it was ok to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols.

 

Jezebels sin was great as she had caused some of Gods little ones to stumble and God said that it would be better if a millstone had been hanged around her neck and she had been dropped into the depths of the sea than for her to have done this great evil. Then there was the faithful remnant. Though they had not participated in the evil deeds of Jezebel, though they held fast to the word of God, though their deeds of faith were increasing, still they had tolerated this wicked woman, allowing her to remain in the church and propagate her lies.Judgment was coming for this Jezebel and her followers. She had been warned of the impending disaster that would befall her. God had given her time to repent as he had given the pre-flood world of Noah.

 

For 120 years Noah preached to his wicked and perverse generation whose every thought and intention of heart was only evil continually! God gave them time to repent but they did not want to repent and on the appointed day, the flood came and destroyed them all.But man is a fickle creature is he not! It is a true statement that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The homosexual community knows about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah having heard the truth from many a preacher: and yet they don’t care one bit. They are told that homosexuality is a sin and yet they say, “God made us this way”. God has given them time to repent and yet they, like Jezebel, do not want to repent of their immorality. And so God is killing them with pestilence!

Jezebel and her ‘disciples’ had been given time to repent but they didn’t want to repent. Behold the mercy: the longsuffering of God in that He has given sinful men and women time to repent of their evil deeds. Our Heavenly Father preaches to a lost world day in and day out. His heavens have declared the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork. Day after day pours forth speech and night after night reveals knowledge. In Romans chapter 1 Paul speaks of sinful man suppressing the truth of God: demonstrating by their worship of idols that they were empty-headed fools. Every step they took away from the truth caused them to sink deeper into sin. They became more and more debauched until they could sink no lower. They came to the place where they applauded other sinners when they had gone and done likewise. Again we see the parallel in the church of Thyatira. Jezebel and her disciples were following in the footsteps of her namesake and her infamous husband. Listen to (1Kings 16:30-33) Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him. That’s quite the statement!

 

But there’s more. 31 It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel (her name means “married to Baal”) She was the daughter of Ethbaal (her dad’s name meant “with Baal”) king of the Sidonians, you can see that these people were really serious about Baal worship. They were devoted to their sin! Ahab joined himself to this hideous situation and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. 32 So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made the Asherah. Notice this statement: Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In fact we read in (1Ki 21:25) of the surpassing level of sinfulness exemplified by Ahab. Here is the testimony of the life of an evil man: “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, and notice this important fact: it was because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

 

Now Jezebel of Thyatira followed her namesake’s example. You just have to scratch your head and say, ‘some people never learn.’ People go off and do evil all the time and they don’t think that they will ever suffer the consequences of their sin. It seems to me to be a case of “it could never happen to me.” No one will ever find out what I have done. I’ll get away with it.” People kill other people on the street for fun. They think it’s just a game. People rob and steal and kill and maim, they murder one another for the simple reason that “that man cut me off. I was there first, it was my turn!” The love of many has indeed grown cold! Judgment day is coming for those who “think they have gotten away with their sins.”

 

Many people would say right now, “Oooh, judgment day, how horrible.” And then they laugh because they just don’t care, their consciences have been seared with a hot iron. They think that it’s just a myth, an idle threat at best. I’m sure Noah’s generation thought the same thing. Right up until God closed the door of the ark and wiped them all out. It is the same for all unrepentant sinners. At the appointed time their foot will slide. The imagery of Jonathan Edwards is not out of place here when he says, “That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God and there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open and you have nothing to stand upon nor anything to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air.But as Edwards said, sinful man has no interest in a mediator. Theirs is the response of Bill Cosby in his ‘Noah’s Ark’ sketch. “What do you want, I’ve been good!” Judgment would be heavy for her and her children.

The sentence was death! And this is in keeping with the declaration of God that the wages of sin is death.   But in this place of sin and compromise, in this place of idolatry and fornication and evil of every sort there were those who truly loved God with their very lives. Though they tolerated Jezebel they had not followed after her. And to these Jesus offers a word of encouragement saying in (Rev 2:24-29) ‘But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, I have something to say to those who have not followed after Jezebel, who have not caved in to their base, fleshly nature, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I must speak on this statement for a moment. It would seem that there were those in the church of Thyatira who, either at the instigation of Jezebel, or on a whim of their own, decided that it would be good to know more about the devil. This too is by no means a new idea.

 

There is a saying, “Know your enemy”. And some believers have used this idea as a green light to “really dig down deep” into the person of Satan. I have an acquaintance that did this. As a teenager he was active in one of the churches in the Valley. One day, what could have instigated this is beyond me: he and some others in the church youth group decided that it would be a good thing to study the devil, to really get to know what makes him tick. They were very serious about what they were doing “for spiritual reasons of course” but it wasn’t long before he and his friends had gotten into deep trouble. First they began dressing and looking the part of Satanists, and practicing séances, learning spells and other evil things. He has told me of oppression by demonic forces and just plain misery. When he finally realized that he was in real trouble he turned to his church for help. Of course he had not changed his appearance and they were scared to death of what they saw. So they locked their doors and wanted nothing to do with him.

 

The bottom line of this is that this person has never been the same since his sojourn into evil. (Pr 6:27-28) “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? The answer, from example of the life of this man, is no! And he is an illustration, a warning of what happens to those who want to know the “deep things of Satan.” His life is in chaos: full of one contradiction after another. He speaks “Christianese” that is, he knows the right words and biblical phrases to use but his life bears no evidence of an inward change of heart that is salvation! His testimony is much like the testimony of Talkative from Pilgrims Progress. From what I know of this man, I can’t imagine the horror that possessed these men and women from Thyatira as they began to ‘delve into the deep things of Satan. There is no joy to be found in such a journey. For the believer there can be no more hateful subject than our adversary the devil. My advice comes from the words of Solomon who said in (Pr 4:15) “Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on.”

 

To the faithful ones who had not gone down this road, this highway to hell, Jesus said I place no other burden on you. His children were already carrying the burden of the evil that dwelt in their midst. They were fighting the fight of faith, abstaining from these abominations and standing firm in the faith despite such pressure and temptation to conform to the world. They were occupied with holding fast to the true faith, the commandments of Jesus Christ, committed to the old faith and rule of practice once for all delivered to the saints. And this is Jesus’ admonition to them and to us: 25 ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. Understand that this is a full time occupation. Jesus is speaking of holding fast to the true faith. He is admonishing us to hold fast, to stand firm against the wiles of the evil one.

 

Paul warned us in (Eph 6:10-18) “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, (armed with the truth that Paul has outlined concerning our enemy and our need to be clothed in the armor of God, he says) be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

 

I think of a soldier on guard duty. He is to be awake at all times, aware of his surroundings and he is to know the password. If anyone approaches who cannot give the proper response this person is an enemy and he is to be dealt with accordingly. We must be as vigilant as a soldier, guarding the door of our lips, shielding our eyes from those things which would lead us astray and our ears from perverse speech and the lie of the devil. And we must fill our hearts and minds with the truth of God!

 

We are in a battle every day and each day we are tempted to yield to the enemy, to cave in to our fleshly desires and the wiles of the temptress Jezebel. Our flesh cries out “gratify me!” The sin that so easily besets is dangled before us like a carrot before a horse. And it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can resist. James said, “Submit to God and resist the devil. And the order of the statement is not a mistake for apart from Jesus Christ we can do nothing. There is an old saying, “To be much for God we must be much with God.” Rations just won’t do in the spiritual life of the believer. Look at the example of Jesus. Though He had no sin to confess He spent hours, whole nights in communion with His Father. How much more do we need such communion! We have no power by ourselves. We have no wisdom apart from God.

 

We need our heavenly Father more than we seem to think.  Many times we fall into the same old pattern of self sufficiency and we fall under the condemnation of the Galatians, who having begun in the Spirit, were trying to be made perfect in the flesh. It’s just not possible! The Hymn writer was right on target when he said, “I need Thee every hour.  It is only through Jesus Christ that we can stand against the wiles of the evil one and his minions. Through Jesus we can emerge victorious in the fight against evil. Through Him we can overcome! And Jesus says in verse 26  ‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, who lives for Jesus no matter what comes along, who fights the good fight of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; 27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; This is one of those mysterious passages which are overused by Pentecostal types to speak of their authority! They forget how the 24 elders fall before God and cast their crowns before Him! He is the one in supreme authority! The best explanation that I see concerning this passage is that we as children of God will share in Christ’s victory over His enemies just as we share in His victory over sin which He accomplished on the cross. He died in our place and rose for our justification and we are sharers in His victory.

 

So instead of being puffed up with pride thinking that we are something our attitude is to be that of “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” (Col 1:12) He is the King of kings and we have been made to be partakers with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom. More glorious than any crown or authority is Jesus Himself. And He says 28 “and I will give him the morning star.” People speak of rewards in heaven, of this crown and that but the most wonderful reward of all, the only reward that we should be seeking is to be in the presence of Jesus, to rejoice in the God of our salvation, to sing His praises for all eternity. To be with Jesus: that is the greatest reward of all. 29 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

 

Let us be content to rest in Jesus, trusting Him, following Him, fighting the good fight of faith fleeing youthful lusts and all that does not please our Heavenly Father. Let us fight against the temptation to compromise with the world, the flesh and the devil. And let us strive to have this testimony from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1Tim 6:13-16)

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